Posts Tagged ‘moulton’

Embracing the inner geek

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

After fighting nature for decades, the transition begins with this 20-year-old bicycle, bought in September:

In keeping with my newly overt nerdiness, I will gladly bore you for hours with technical explanations for why this is the fastest non-recumbent bicycle you can buy. But the short answer is rigid wheels, 110psi tires, full suspension, and rigid space frame.

Hard to believe? This exact model holds the world speed record for non-recumbent bicycles, at over 51mph with a full fairing.

This bicycle is a strategic decision, in that it gains a persistent edge by a path that competitors cannot or will not follow. Practically no one will ride this bike, no matter how fast, because it looks weird.

I consistently pass serious athletes in Lycra finery and $4,000 carbon bikes. They stare at the rusty bike, the blue jeans and flip flops, and pump furiously, but can’t catch up. Yet, even after seeing it with their own eyes, they will never make the obvious competitive move, which is to buy this bike. So I keep passing them. That’s strategy.

Bicycle touring on the cheap

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

New touring bicycles cost thousands of dollars, but we live in an era of industrial plenty — perfectly good used bicycles are available at an 80% to 90% discount from new. Here are some things to know.

1980s-vintage lugged “chromoly” steel frames are an incredible bargain. Also known as chromium-molybdenum alloy, or CrMo for short, these were state of the art during the bicycle fad of the late 1980s. Used chromoly bikes are cheap, light, indestructible, and last forever. Best of all, they flex in a way that provides remarkable comfort on high pressure tires. My 1987 chromoly Trek 520 runs 95psi tires, yet is more comfortable over uneven surfaces than my 2006 Bianchi Milano, which has big soft tires but a rigid TIG-welded aluminum frame.

In my experience, many vintage bikes are actually more durable than newer ones of similar configuration, because the components are mechanically simpler. For example, my 1987 Trek has gone 100 times as many miles as my wife’s 1997 Trek 2100, yet her Shimano shifters have already failed. Mine can’t fail, because there is nothing to break — they are simple downtube index shifters.

Cheap used 1980s chromoly bikes of interest include Trek, Nishiki, and even high-end Schwinn. You can purchase whole bikes for under $100 at garage sales, and they often need nothing more than new brake cables ($20), handlebar tape ($10) and a modern seat ($50) to approach modern standards of performance, and to exceed modern standards of durability.